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The Vancouver Canucks took a free-agent plunge at centre, signing veterans Manny Malhotra and Joel Perreault in the opening hours of NHL free agency Thursday.

Malhotra, an 11-year veteran and former first-round draft pick, signed a three-year deal worth $2.5-million (all currencies U.S.) per season. Perreault, who played two games for the Phoenix Coyotes last season, signed a one-way pact for $510,000.

Malhotra, 30, is bound to be a hit with Canucks fans, both on Vancouver Island and on the multicultural Lower Mainland. The former San Jose Shark is married to Victoria's Joann Nash, the sister of NBA star Steve, and is the second player of Indian heritage to play in the NHL.

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The Canucks needed centremen after parting ways with Kyle Wellwood and Ryan Johnson, both unrestricted free agents as of noon ET Thursday. Malhotra will likely step onto the third-line, while Perreault is a candidate to play on the fourth unit. Top prospect Cody Hodgson will also vie for a job.

Perreault, 27, has 26 points in 89 NHL games dating back to the 2005-06, but appeared in just two games last season. The Montreal native is 6-foot-2 and 212 lbs., and the Canucks had been looking for bigger bodies among their bottom-six forwards.

Vancouver now has 19 players under contract for roughly $53-million.

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About the Author
B.C. sports correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Matthew spearheads the Globe's sports coverage in B.C., and spends most of his time with the NHL Canucks and CFL Lions. He has worked for four dailies and TSN since graduating from Carleton University's School of Journalism a decade ago, and has covered the Olympic Games, Super Bowls, Grey Cups, the Stanley Cup playoffs and the NBA Finals. More

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